Aug 11, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

📦 Good Tuesday morning. Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., Axios @Work author Erica Pandey will host a virtual event on ways the coronavirus has accelerated a nationwide shift to e-commerce. Register here.

🚨 Situational awareness: Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut's port "posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded," Reuters reports.

Milestone: The number of world coronavirus cases topped 20 million today, after doubling in 45 days, AP reports. It took six months to get to 10 million.

  • The U.S. has about 4% of world population and 25% of cases.
1 big thing: Death spiral for consumers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Many Americans are suffering from a quintuple whammy: unemployment, overdue rent, mounting bills, food insecurity and health fears.

  • Despite some recent good news about dwindling household debt, the financial health of U.S. consumers is rapidly deteriorating — and families with children are faring the worst, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.

By some measures, we're doing quite well:

  • People are paying off credit cards at a surprising clip.
  • Personal income grew in the second quarter of 2020, thanks to hefty checks from the government.
  • Investors are reveling in stellar market performance.
  • Total household debt fell in the second quarter of 2020 — the first time household debt has decreased since 2014.

But by more realistic and meaningful measures, people are in terrible shape:

  • Food pantries are overwhelmed: Feeding America, which runs 200 food banks, says average demand is up nearly 60% and one in six Americans could face hunger as a result of the pandemic.
  • A massive wave of homelessness is starting to swell. "Eviction cairns" are cropping up in New Orleans, where piles of people's belongings are being thrown out on the street.
  • People are even surrendering pets because they can't afford to take care of them.

There's "no indication that consumers expect the recession to end anytime soon," according to Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

2. Axios-Ipsos poll: Half know someone who tested positive
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We've hit a tipping point: Half of Americans know someone who's tested positive for the coronavirus, White House editor Margaret Talev writes from the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Why it matters: The data shows the virus is everybody's problem now.

Week 20 of our national survey (1,076 adults, ±3.1 margin of error) finds collateral health damage from being home more:

  • 38% of Americans say they're gaining weight. That's higher among those self-quarantining.

An even 50% of respondents now say they know someone who's tested positive.

  • 55% of Democrats, 49% of Republicans and 44% of independents surveyed know someone who tested positive.
  • One in five knows someone who's died from the virus.
  • One in five Americans has been tested.

Share this story.

3. Curtains for Hong Kong freedom

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The end of Hong Kong's relatively free political system is here, Axios China author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is already wielding the new national security law it forced upon Hong Kong just over a month ago.

  • Through the extraterritoriality enshrined in the new law, Beijing has signaled that its push against pro-democracy activism is going global.

The big picture: The Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has learned it doesn't need tanks and machine guns to stop a vibrant political movement.

  • The new national security law circumvented Hong Kong's traditionally independent courts and established a secret police.
  • The vaguely worded law criminalizes sedition, terrorism, separatism, and collusion with foreign powers, defining them broadly and imposing harsh penalties.
  • Critics have said the vague wording is intentional, since it pressures people to practice sweeping self-censorship to avoid crossing unknown lines.

Share this story.

4. Pics du jour: Chicago aftermath
Photos (clockwise from top left): Charles Rex Arbogast/AP, Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP, Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters, Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

After a Sunday police shooting drew an angry crowd, a caravan headed to the Loop for a looting spree "that marked the worst night of unrest in Chicago since the police brutality protests of late May," the Chicago Tribune reports.

  • "Police Superintendent David Brown said officers arrested more than 100 people while 13 officers were injured, including a sergeant struck by a bottle."
  • "He said social media posts had encouraged the downtown looting."

Photos, clockwise from top left:

  • Yogi Dalal hugs his daughter Jigisha as his other daughter, Kajal (left) bows her head after the family food and liquor store was vandalized.
  • Nordstrom's glass was shattered.
  • Yves Saint Laurent's Gold Coast shop was looted.
  • Volunteers help clean up outside a Best Buy in Lincoln Park.
5. States struggle to help jobless

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State agencies charged with paying unemployment benefits to jobless residents have their backs against the wall as they rush to parse President Trump's executive actions on coronavirus aid, Axios' Courtenay Brown writes.

  • Why it matters: States are being asked to pitch in $100 per unemployed resident, but it’s a heavy lift for cash-strapped states that are still unclear about the details and may not opt-in at all.

Plus, any changes to decades-old state unemployment systems would take weeks to implement.

  • "If we have to make any changes to our computer system put in in 2000 ... it's going to keep people from getting those funds," said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Share this story.

6. First look: Trump's new Biden ad

Screenshot via YouTube

The Trump campaign launches a new ad today in five early-voting states that hits Joe Biden on taxes and immigration, redoubling a strategy to paint the Democratic nominee as a tool of the radical left, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • "In His Own Words" will be a "high seven figure" spend running in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Wisconsin, a senior campaign official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The spending suggests President Trump's strategists think this frame has the best chance of driving up Biden's unfavorable numbers.

  • For months, the campaign has tried out numerous — and largely unsuccessful — messages to get voters to intensely dislike Biden.
  • Very little has cut through a media environment in which voters have been focused on the coronavirus and Trump's handling of the crisis.
  • But sources with direct knowledge of the Trump campaign's polling say their internal polls show a growing number of voters are associating Biden with left-wing, rather than moderate, positions. They did not make the full internal data available for review.

Between the lines: The ad will run in Wisconsin through the Democratic National Convention, which originally was slated to be held in Milwaukee.

  • The ad includes footage of Biden telling somebody who said they benefited from Trump's tax cuts: "If you elect me, your taxes are gonna be raised, not cut."

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said: "Donald Trump is the most radical president in modern American history," charging that Trump has worsened the pandemic, sought to take away health coverage for millions, tear-gassed peaceful protesters and failed to address Russian bounty offers on U.S. military members.

7. Right wing boosts Trump's traffic
Data: SimilarWeb; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Traffic to President Trump's presidential website is more than 4x greater than traffic to Joe Biden's presidential website, thanks in large part to referrals from right-wing outlets like The Gateway Pundit and Citizen Free Press, according to data from SimilarWeb.

  • Why it matters, via Axios' Sara Fischer: Web traffic to campaigns is important because it can help campaigns fundraise, sell merchandise, and rally enthusiasm amongst voters.
Data: SimilarWeb; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Share these graphics.

  • 📱 Sign up for Sara Fischer's weekly Media Trends, out later this morning.
8. NYC CEOs pledge hiring binge

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Leaders of more than two dozen of the New York City area's largest employers aim to hire 100,000 low-income residents and people of color by 2030 and will help prep them for tech jobs, Axios' Jennifer Kingson reports.

  • Those involved include JPMorgan Chase, Ernst & Young, IBM, McKinsey & Company and Accenture.

Why it matters: As the city's economy has boomed, many New Yorkers have been left behind — particularly during the pandemic. The hiring initiative marks an unusual pact among firms, some of them competitors, to address systemic unemployment.

9. After Trump: Biden's inbox
Courtesy Foreign Affairs

After nearly four years of turbulence under President Trump, Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose writes in the intro to the September/October issue, "the country’s enemies are stronger, its friends are weaker, and the United States itself is increasingly isolated and prostrate."

  • "Most of the world looks at Washington with horror and pity rather than admiration or respect, and the one thing many of Trump’s domestic supporters and critics agree on is there's no going back."

Also in the forthcoming issue, CFR President Richard Haass, author of the new "The World: An Introduction," writes: "As with health care and the Affordable Care Act, when it came to foreign policy, Trump inherited an imperfect but valuable system and tried to repeal it without offering a substitute."

  • "This disruption will leave an enduring mark. And if such disruption continues or accelerates, which there is every reason to believe it will if Donald Trump is elected to a second term, then 'destruction' might well become a more apt term to describe this period of U.S. foreign policy."

Ben Rhodes — former deputy national security adviser, and co-host of "Pod Save the World" — writes that a Biden victory in November "would offer the temptation of seeking to restore the United States' post–Cold War image of itself as a virtuous hegemon."

  • "But that would badly underestimate the country’s current predicament,” Rhodes argues in "What It Will Take to Fix U.S. Foreign Policy."
  • "It is essential for a President Biden to find opportunity not in the past but in the present — in the wake of the recent crises that have upended American life and in the green shoots of the remarkable popular uprising that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May."

Go deeper.

10. If 2020 were golf
Photos: Warren Little/Getty Images

Rikard Karlberg of Sweden plays from the water on the 18th hole during the English Championship at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club in Ware, England, last week.

Mike Allen

📱 Thanks for reading Axios AM. Please invite your friends to sign up here.